A Noble Purpose Alone Won’t Transform Your Company
Article

A Noble Purpose Alone Won’t Transform Your Company

Leadership behaviors that nurture interpersonal collaboration are the true drivers of change.


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Business leaders appreciate the importance of employee engagement, but many misunderstand what truly drives it – and most neglect its fundamental enabler. In an interesting white paper for MIT Sloan Management Review, Rob Cross, a professor of global leadership at Babson College; Amy Edmondson, professor of leadership and management at Harvard Business School; and Wendy Murphy, associate dean and professor of management at Babson College, report on research based on organizational network analysis and interviews with 200 business leaders that reveal the central role of interpersonal collaboration in employee engagement. The authors offer a three-step process for generating positive collaboration and specific leadership behaviors to support each step.

Summary

For building employee engagement, nothing else matches the impact of interpersonal collaboration.

Many leaders believe a sense of purpose drives engagement, but organizational network analysis (ONA) shows that interpersonal collaboration makes the biggest difference. At software as a service (SaaS) developer WorkDay, despite the company’s relatively workaday mission, the workforce enjoys high levels of engagement, energy and enthusiasm. As the cause, Workday’s leaders point to their dedication to fostering collaboration. Recruiters hire candidates who show empathy and a service orientation, and the company’s leaders encourage employees to build interpersonal networks.

A three-step process fosters collaboration, beginning with establishing safety and trust.

Leaders should build collaboration in three phases. First, lay...

About the Authors

Rob Cross is a professor of global leadership at Babson College and founder of Connected Commons, a research consortium of 80 leading global firms. Amy Edmondson teaches leadership and management at Harvard Business School. Wendy Murphy is associate dean and professor of management at Babson College.


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